Our Most Popular Stories Of 2016

Before we ring in the New Year, we want to look back on 2016 and the stories that most captivated our readers. While politics dominated the headlines this year, several major trends played out in graduate business education. Little of it fits the Merriam-Webster-proclaimed word of the year: surreal. Pragmatic, might be better.

Business schools upped their game on the technology front, launching more online degree programs and flipping more MBA classrooms as never before.

Experiential learning in MBA programs reached new levels at many business schools, culminating in some new degree programs that are entirely based on action learning.

Admission offices increased their use of video in MBA applications.

Even as fewer graduating MBAs in 2016 did startups, schools heaped on more and more entrepreneurial courses, faculty and centers—and more students than ever signed up for those new offerings.

Poets&Quants wrote extensively about these trends that helped to shape business education in the past year. In fact, it was yet another record-breaking year for Poets&Quants with all-time highs in both traffic and reader engagement. But this year’s most popular stories reflected more immediate interests. Who goes to business school? How much money do MBA graduates make? Who are the best business school professors? Why outstanding candidates get rejected from the elite MBA programs?

Here are our most read stories of 2016:

1) The Best & Brightest MBAs In The Class of 2016

Our most popular feature of the year featured the inspiring and often awe-inducing narratives of the very best MBAs to graduate in 2016. This year’s recipients of our best and brightest honor were the rock stars of their own classes. Amid never-ending demands, these second years were the ones who were always available to organize events, tutor peers, and recruit future students. They were leaders, volunteers and problem-solvers, who started conversations, challenged conventions, rallied peers, and inspired change. Lauded for their passion, ingenuity, and humility, they were tagged with labels like the “cream of the crop” and the “total package.”

One reason why this story was most read, excluding our own ranking of the best schools, is that in one place would-be applicants can see who enrolls in the top MBA programs and what are their backgrounds and life goals. By the numbers, this year’s class could have been a case study in diversity. Some 57 of the 100 members were women – a milestone considering how women traditionally represent a third of their MBA classes. They hailed from 53 different MBA programs globally, representing nearly every school in Poets&Quants’ Top 25 American and Top 10 International business programs. Nearly a third (32) of the best and brightest were born overseas, with graduates found everywhere from the blustery plains of Mitchell, South Dakota, to the coastal bustle of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Read more.

2) The Highest & Lowest Paid MBAs Of 2015

The value of an MBA is more than just the measure of one’s post-degree compensation. But let’s face it: Money is important. So one of our annual features that examines the most highly paid graduates of the year–and those on the other extreme–naturally gets a lot of eyeballs (our updated feature will appear shortly after the last group of schools, including MIT Sloan, UC-Berkeley Haas and several others finally release their 2016 employment reports).

When it came to nosebleed numbers, Columbia Business School graduates put on an impressive show in 2015. The highest reported compensation of any MBA came from the New York school for a graduate who got a job in private equity. The MBA reported other guaranteed compensation–not including base or signing bonus–of $467,000. That’s over 50% more than the next biggest pay day another business school, reported by two Wharton MBAs, one of whom landed a $300,000 starting salary or another Wharton grad who got a job that paid a whopping $300,000 in signing bonus alone.

Make no mistake, these are the exceptions to the rule. After all, at Columbia Business School, the median salary for a Class of 2015 graduate was $125,000 and the median other guaranteed comp was just $25,000, a mere fraction of the $467,000 reported by CBS’ highest paid graduate. And then there was the Columbia graduate who took a job in consumer products for a $320,000 starting salary and yet another two MBAs who landed $250,000-a-year salaries in hedge funds and investment management.

And the lowest salaries? A graduating MBA at Stanford, where the annual tuition is $64,050, won the dubious distinction of earning the least money of any MBA last year–just $18,000 for a non-profit organization in Europe. Even by non-profit standards, that’s a lowly sum. The 5% of the Stanford class that took jobs in the non-profit sector had median starting salaries of $100,000 last year and the highest reported salary for a non-profit job was $175,000, a sum that is even higher than many school’s highest paid graduate. Read more.

3) You Won’t Believe Who Harvard Business School Just Rejected

Each year, Harvard Business School turns down for admission more than 8,000 MBA applicants, many of them with exceptional credentials and histories. Often, these admissions decisions are based on subtle details, the need to craft a diverse class, even mistakes in applying. Yet, with a Harvard MBA representing the professional dream of many smart, ambitious people in the world, there is endless fascination over why someone with a great resume would get “released.”

Among the disappointed this year were McKinsey & Co. consultants with 790 GMATs, a 25-year-old Asian American female with a 770 GMAT who worked for a high-flying Silicon Valley firm (think Google, Facebook, or Apple) and now is at a startup, and a 26-year-old male who happens to be a University of Oxford grad and works for Credit Suisse. The Oxford undergrad came in second in the world Bridge championship as part of the England team. There are plenty of Ivy Leaguers in the group as well as graduates of Stanford, MIT, and UC-Berkeley.

There’s the 28-year-old male who has an electrical engineering degree from MIT with a 3.92 grade point average and a 780 GMAT. In his six years at Bechtel Corp., he has handled five project teams in the utilities sector and has won a promotion from an assistant manager to a senior project manager. He reports to a vice president who is an HBS alum who was one of his recommenders. His extras include leading IEEE workshops, webinars and seminars. He has published papers to his credit. All dinged, without an interview. Read more.